ZMA (Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate) is a hot topic for debate. Many love to discuss whether it has a positive effect on both muscle growth and testosterone production. There have been studies with results proving both sides of the debate, so who is right?
Let’s break it down and you can be the judge. We will start with Zinc.
Zinc is a product of the citric acid cycle. It is found in all cells of the body. It has a direct effect on both cell growth and repair. It’s also needed in over 80 enzymes and hormone functions, including reproductive hormones like testosterone.
The aspartic properties used in ZMA are used for better absorption into the cells. They also have a positive influence on cell retention and oxygen efficiency.
Zinc levels have a direct correlation to testosterone levels. Meaning, if there is a zinc deficiency, testosterone is probably also low. Zinc is an inhibitor of the aromatase enzyme which prevents the increase of estrogen. Increases in estrogen could cause a decrease in testosterone. This interferes with the muscle building process.
This mineral has several important functions in the body such as contraction and relaxation of muscles, production of protein, and transport of energy. Magnesium deficiencies are rare if you eat a high level of dark vegetables, nuts, and fruit. However, many of us fail at this diet. As evident by our growing obesity and disease rate, most people do not eat a healthy diet and we cannot always depend on our food to contain all the nutrients we need. (See Do We Need Supplements?)
A lack of magnesium in the body causes confusion, fatigue, insomnia, muscle twitching, and also irritability. Obviously, this can get in the way of training.
A Note on B6
Like all B vitamins, B6 is a vitamin that helps to convert carbohydrates into glucose. B6 specifically helps the body make neurotransmitters and is needed for both brain development and function. Other uses are the production of the hormones serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin. These hormones are responsible for both mood regulation and sleep regulation.
If we look at ZMA as a whole, it is a supplement that may increase testosterone production through zinc (especially if levels are low), keep alertness levels higher and help to regulate sleep. Most people will take ZMA to increase productivity at the gym, decrease body fat and also increase muscle mass. Knowing that most of the population does not eat correctly and sleep long or deep enough, I would say that ZMA would have a positive effect for most people. In order to increase testosterone levels and lose body fat, you must sleep. Since ZMA may have a positive effect on sleep patterns and hormone regulation, it appears to be advantageous to use ZMA as a supplement to increase testosterone and decrease body fat.
University of Maryland Medical Center
L.R. BRILLA1 AND VICTOR CONTE. Effects of a Novel Zinc Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength. Exercise and Sports Science Laboratory, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9067
J Nutr, 1996 Apr, 126(4):842-8, “Dietary zinc deficiency alters 5 alpha-reduction and aromatization of testosterone and androgen and estrogen receptors in rat liver”
Neuropharmacology, 2009, 56:531–540, “Zinc regulates the dopamine transporter in a membrane potential and chloride-dependent manner”
National Institutes of Health: Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and markers of Anabolism and Catabolism. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004; 1(2): 12–20. Published online 2004 December 31.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.